Promoting Militant Islam Abroad: U.S. Policy Blunders

On December 19, 1983, a special envoy from President Ronald Reagan stepped off the plane in Baghdad with a handwritten letter from the President to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.  The letter informed Saddam that Washington was prepared to support Iraq in her war with Iran.  The envoy was Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld spent another day in Baghdad expanding on the American strategy for aiding Iraq, including sharing intelligence and providing military advice, dual-use materials, and, through other countries, advanced military hardware.  This seems almost incredible, given that, within a few years, America would be at war with Saddam and, in 2003, would depose him.

This misguided U.S. policy toward Iraq was not an anomaly.  The tilt we took toward Iraq in the 1980’s was mainly an attempt to clean up a mistake of previous decades when we blindly promoted Iran as our surrogate in the Gulf.  From 1953, when the CIA engineered a coup that removed the leftist nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh from power and put Mohammed Reza Pahlavi back on the Peacock Throne, we sold Iran the latest and best of whatever military hardware she wanted.  We trained her military at home and in the United States.  When the shah was deposed and the ayatollahs took charge, however, we became the Great Satan, and American arms in Iranian hands became dangerous.  We had created a threat that we tried...

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